For a while now, I have been trying to find wines under $10 that are better than average, or at the very least drinkable. The problem is that for every $9.99 or $7.99 or $4.99 mystery bottle I buy, I could have just as easily bought one really good $25-$30 bottle.
I’ve decided that unless I have tried the wine myself (and no, shelf cards with points don’t do it) it’s just not worth the money. Yes I occasionally find a real gem that I enjoy under the $10 mark but usually it’s at Trader Joes and usually when I go back it’s sold out or discontinued. This happened recently with the La Boca Malbec from Mendoza. They had a Cab, a Merlot, and a Malbec each at $2.99. The Malbec was terrific, the other two, not so much. But of course when I went back for more Malbec it was “discontinued”. When I asked for more information, it turned out the wine had been so successful the distributor raised the price beyond what Trader Joes was willing to pay. So that was strange, kind of defeats the whole equation of value priced wine. Too bad Trader Joes can’t do in house tasting; they would sell a heck of a lot more wine that way.
Of course wine is so subjective, what I like you might hate, but I hate paying for wine I hate when I could just as easily gotten something I like.My days of hunting out the gems are over. I don’t have the time and I don’t want to waste the money. Also I am spoiled from having lived in Italy where you could buy really great wines for less than 8 Euro and just about anything you bought was terrific.
Luckily I now live in a region where wineries are plentiful. And I’ve learned the importance of winery visits to taste the wines and hopefully find something I really like. Also buying at the tasting room usually gives you a slight discount. Plus if there is something I really like, I join the wine club and get savings on a case or two.
Learning about wines from different regions via programs like the Wines of Chile tasting and Twitter Taste Live events are very helpful too. Now when faced with something unfamiliar on the shelf, at least I can make an educated guess as to how well I might like the wine based on the region or varietals.
These days I’m more attracted to my local wine shop where the owner can get to know my tastes and recommend accordingly. It’s just like the bookstore model where hand selling of books has been the hallmark of the independent bookstores customer base for ages. In fact bookstores use the shelf talker method (written by employees) very successfully in their stores. But some wine shelf talker with a point rating from someone I don’t know is just not talking to me.